Experience America's best lakeside beaches.
When most people think of booking travel for a “beach trip,” they traditionally think of destinations located along the coast. Many people don’t realize that there are many underrated beaches across the U.S. that aren’t necessarily oceanic, but still just as beautiful. Here are more than a dozen of the best lake beaches across the United States, with no ocean in sight.
Top Picks for You
Kings Beach, Lake Tahoe
Kings Beach is a favorite with visitors and locals alike, boasting 979 feet of beautiful lakefront area along the north shore of . It’s a day-use-only area that offers visitors a wide, sandy beach and picnic tables to relax. This beach was named after the card shark “Joe King,” who won the town nearly a century before poker had a cable TV following. From the expansive beach area, visitors can admire panoramic lake views of the mountains in the distance (which may even be snowcapped, depending on the time of year!) and enjoy outdoor live music in the summer. The Kings Beach area is lined with a range of boutique shops and lively restaurants to explore off the sands and can be a great central location to set as a home base for a day in North Tahoe.
White Lake Beach
WHERE: North Carolina
North Carolina’s White Lake has long been known as a popular summer lake resort home to triathlon competitions and various water sports, including boating, fishing, and swimming. Boasting crystal clear waters and white sands, this destination has been growing and moving toward becoming a year-round spot to relax, with an increasing number of places to spend the night and extend the vacation. In addition to spending time on the water or sitting on the sand, visitors can check out the White Lake Multi-use Trail, a paved path traveling around a section of the lake for running, walking, and biking.
Presque Isle State
Presque Isle State Park is a 3,200-acre sandy peninsula that arcs out into Lake Erie, creating Pennsylvania’s only “seashore” area. As a National Natural Landmark, Presque Isle boasts a beautiful coastline and a range of recreational activities, including swimming, surfing, boating, biking, hiking ranging in difficulty, even SCUBA diving, and more. Presque Isle is also regarded as one of the top birding spots in America. Embark on a Presque Isle Boat Tour, or visit the Tom Ridge Environmental Center—a 65,000-square-foot facility offering insight into the ever-changing ecosystem of the park. Permitted Scuba Divers are permitted in designated waters (snorkeling isn’t allowed). Divers must just be certified and must register at the Public Safety Building on-site to receive details on waters open for diving.
Cedar Point Beach
Stretching out for approximately one mile along Lake Erie, Cedar Point Beach offers visitors cool breezes and the chance to soak up the sun in Ohio. This beach is one of the nicest ones in the region and is well taken care of by Cedar Point’s top-notch maintenance team (combed regularly and boasting large lounge chairs and cabanas!). The sands are open to any Cedar Point or Cedar Point Shores guest. Play volleyball, create a sandcastle, or visit the amusement and water park. Stop into The Sand Bar, which regularly offers free musical entertainment. There’s plenty of fun to be had on the water. Visit North Coast Parasail, which rents out jet skis, paddle boards, kayaks, and even full-size boats.
The Beaches of Sleeping Bear Dunes
The enormous Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore spans 35 miles of sandy shoreline on Lake Michigan outside Traverse City. Visitors will encounter dune bluffs that can tower as high as 450 feet above the water. Travelers can set their home base in the nearby town of Empire, offering easy access to the park and its gorgeous beaches, including Empire Beach, Esch Road Beach, Peterson Beach, Platte River Point, Good Harbor Bay Beach, or Bohemia Beach. The sparkling clear waters set against a backdrop of towering golden sand dunes make for a spectacular place to watch the sunset at night.
North Avenue Beach
WHERE: Chicago, Illinois
Chicago’s North Avenue Beach is a fantastic destination for those who seek a beach overflowing with vibrant energy and culture. Located just outside of Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, this destination hosts arguably the best sand, sun, and clear fresh water on the lake. Visitors to this beach will also enjoy easy access to the famed 18-mile Lakefront Trail which is perfect for biking, walking, and rollerblading. After a day of lounging or lake sports, there are plenty of tasty eateries for refueling, just across Lakeshore Drive.
North Shore Beach
WHERE: Grand Haven, Michigan
Grand Haven State Park and public beach offer miles of golden sand, clear water, a historic pier to explore, with close proximity to the downtown area. It’s a wonderful getaway for visitors of any age. The park’s North Shore Beach in particular is a must-visit hidden gem. It’s located on the calmer side of the Grand River channel, so visitors can enjoy the same fantastic sands and tranquil water conditions while being just far away from town that it feels like a relaxing respite.
North Beach at Bear Lake State Park
Bear Lake is known for its intense turquoise color, which is due to the presence of (harmless) limestone particles in the water. The lake is a sizable 20 miles long and eight miles wide, straddling the two states of Idaho and Utah. Bear Lake’s North Beach has been arguably named the best beach on the lake by those who frequent its sandy shores. This beach covers two miles of coastline and is an enormously popular swimming area in the summer months. There are plenty of quiet spots to plant a chair, soak up the sun, and enjoy the peaceful scenery of this idyllic green-blue-hued slice of lakeside paradise.
Lake Havasu State Park
Lake Havasu and the sands of Lake Havasu State Park are much more than their famed “spring breakers” reputation (although it is still affectionately referred to as “Arizona’s Playground”). Here, visitors of all ages can enjoy more than 300 days of annual sunshine with a unique mix of calm waters and sandy beaches. There are gorgeous views of the rugged mountains beyond the sandy shores and a range of lakeside adventures to encounter–from boating to jet skiing, paddle boarding, dock fishing, and swimming. Those who want to stay on the actual beach itself without renting a houseboat can spend the night at Lake Havasu’s only beachfront resort, The Nautical Beachfront Resort, which offers easy access to the blue-green waters with breathtaking views, making this the best spring lake beach to visit during your break.
The Shores of Lake Chelan
When most people think of Washington State, they typically picture the dense green forests and rugged mountain ranges that the Pacific Northwest is known for. What they may not realize is that there’s an amazingly beautiful, arid desert-like region located in the eastern part of the state called Lake Chelan State Park. It’s just three hours east of Washington, and located in the heart of the Cascade Mountains. This lake’s crystal clear blue waters and sunny semi-desert climate (yes, in Washington!) host a plethora of beach activities. Some of the most fantastic swimming beaches on the lake include Campbell’s Resort and Wapato Point.
Million Dollar Beach
WHERE: Lake George, New York
The Adirondacks region of New York offers a bounty of beautiful beaches, including Lake George’s magnificent 51-acre Million Dollar Beach. These shores are located on the southernmost shore of Lake George, offering 1,700 feet of golden sand to lounge and a large swimming area. After a day at the beach, visitors can embark on an adventure in town, exploring and satisfying any sweet tooth craving along the Lake George Ice Cream Trail. Those who want to get out and explore the lake beyond its shoreline can book a trip with the Lake George Steamboat Company, which runs several cruises each day, including sightseeing tours and lunch and dinner cruises from May to October
WHERE: Acadia National Park, Maine
Most people think of the well-known, seaside “Sand Beach” when they think of Acadia National Park–however, the lesser-known Echo Lake’s freshwater beauty doesn’t disappoint, for those who want to encounter something different. This swimming beach offers crystal clear blue waters and breathtaking views of the rugged Maine landscape, including the impressive rocky cliffs and stunning mountain sights that reflect in the waters below. It’s also an ideal spot to cool off post-hike with the added benefit of being much warmer than the chilly oceans over on Sand Beach.
Kohler-Andrae State Park
WHERE: Sheboygan, Wisconsin
Kohler-Andrae State Park is home to miles of majestic sand dunes, golden beaches, and the shimmering blue waters of Lake Michigan (but in Wisconsin!). These picturesque shores allow visitors to explore one of the largest dune complexes along Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan coastline. It’s also a fantastic place to explore nature. The local wetlands provide a unique habitat for many species of rare plants to call home, some of which are only found on the shorelines of the Great Lakes.
Frisco Marina on Lake Dillon
Located at a typically non-traditional elevation of 9,000 feet for soaking up sand and sun, the beach at the Frisco Marina on the Dillon Reservoir, Colorado, hosts the usual lakeside offerings, but instead of ocean views, it’s paired with unparalleled alpine scenery. The snow-capped mountains and alpine views are a welcomed contrast to the tropical tiki bar, boat rentals, and hundreds of feet of sandy beach. Here, visitors and locals alike flock to the sands for a relaxing day in the sunshine. Even better, the Frisco Marina is within walking distance of the quaint, historic Frisco Main Street, lined with ice cream shops, restaurants, bars, and a range of other locally owned businesses.
Beaches...in the Middle of the Desert?
Can’t get to a more “natural” body of water? Prefer to be able to see your feet the entire time you’re swimming? Some of the hottest desert regions in the U.S offer the “coolest” ways of chilling out–thousands of miles from the ocean. Resort properties such as the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa at Indian Wells in California, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Arizona, and Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas feature spectacularly “sandy beaches” for guests to enjoy, without ever having to make a trek to a larger body of water (but with just as much of an enjoyable experience).